Five Simple Steps to GNS3 Setup

Hi everyone!

As most of our students and felow workers know, we love and have been avid users of GNS3 for several years now.  We always try to help folks get started on this great free softwar.  You can do/learn so much with/about Network Science by simply using GNS3, and the greatest part of it all is that the software is free.

That said, you must be a legal owner of Cisco IOS as well.  The easiest way to get started there is to purchase a Cisco router from eBay.  Some routers can be acquired for under $50.  Then you can use the IOS software that came with that router!

It is vital that if you are going to use GNS3 that you properly configure the software and the environment to make its use as easy and trouble free as possible.  This article will provide you with the basic things every GNS3 user must do to start off on the right foot.

To get GNS3, go to, and click on the Download menu item.  Follow the usual installation instructions.  

Step 1

Next, you will want to set the directories.  We like to create a GNS3 folder in our root directory, and then create several subfolders:

  • Images – this is where you will place all IOS image files that you have rights to
  • Projects – this is where you can create and store your projects
  • Working – this is needed for GNS3
  • Captures – this is where Wireshark when used with GNS3 will store capture files

Step 2

Now in the GNS3 configuration preferences from the Edit menu, make sure you change the paths/directories shown in the General tab,  the working directory in the Dynamips tab, and the working directory in the Captures tab to the four directories you created above.

Step 3

Next, in the Images folder, you will need to create a file called “baseconfig.txt”.  Here is my preferred baseconfig.txt:

hostname %h
alias exec s show run
alias exec c config terminal
alias exec i show ip interface brief
alias exec ipr show ip route
no ip domain lookup
ip domain-name
ip tcp synwait 5
no service time log
no service time debug
line console 0
no login
no exec-timeout
logging synch
privilege level 15
line aux 0
no login
no exec-timeout
logging synch
privilege level 15

With this base configuration, I think you will find the least issues and easy start up of all your routers.

Step 4

Next you will need to let GNS3 process the .bin IOS images.  To do this go to Edit> IOS Images and Hypervisors.  From this screen, in the Settings area, click the “…” box to select an image you have in your Images directory.  Then click the “…” box in the next line to select the base config file you created above.   Then click “Save”.

Step 5

Now, you will need to do one more thing.  Return to the main GNS3 screen, select the router you just set up from the Node Type list, and drag that router onto the center screen area.  If everything worked properly, that router icon will appear with no error messages.  If you get an error, either the IOS image was not properly created, or the baseconfig file was not found, and you need to verify your settings above.  

Assuming it was error free, then click the green “Play” button to start the router and immediately open a console to the router.  You should see the router actually boot up, and be sure to press Enter to get the Router# prompt.

Right click on the router in the center part of the screen and select Idle PC.  This can only be selected if the router is indeed running.  GNS3 will then calculate the Idle PC value.  Drop down the list, and select any value with an “*” next to it and save it.  If there is no asterisk next to any value, select the first one, Save it, and then repeat the process.  This will help minimize the CPU utilization and needs to be done once for each router type. 


That will pretty much get you started with the proper configuration of GNS3.  I think that if you follow these basic setup methods you will find that GNS3 will work efficiently allowing you to maximize your experience, and maximize your ease of use.  

Special kudos to the GNS3 team for providing such a great emulation environment for those of us in network design and Network Science.

I hope you find this article and its content helpful.  Comments are welcomed below.  If you would like to see more articles like this, please support us by clicking the patron link where you will receive free bonus access to courses and more, or simply buying us a cup of coffee!, and all comments are welcome! 

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